Presence of Silicon Valley icon Peter Thiel on GOP convention schedule tonight has journalists speculating as to motive
Is prime speaking spot being given merely to reward a rich backer of the campaign, or to give the man a platform to promote his rather unique vision for the country
It is Thursday, the final day of the Republican National Convention, and I am sure there are those party veterans who thought the final day would never come. Each day so far has featured some sort of, well, oddness. It started with the wife of the presumptive nominee giving a speech, using the words of the wife of the other party’s leader, progressed to speakers calling for the imprisonment of the other party’s candidate, and last night we had the spectacle of Ted Cruz being booed off the stage because he would not endorse Donald Trump. Party leaders in the Congress could have told Trump this would happen, based on their experience with the man, not that Trump would have listened in any case.
But tonight’s program seems to me to be the interesting one.
The theme of the night is supposed to be party unity (which is why Ted Cruz is not scheduled). There are a number of women speakers, designed to show the public that despite the platform, women really should vote for Trump (as it might be the last vote they get). Then there is Jerry Falwell, Jr. That should be interesting.
But the featured speaker of the evening, with one of the two spots just before the candidate himself speaks, is Peter Thiel.
Thiel is an odd choice: the founder of Paypal, Thiel is a Silicon Valley billionaire and early backer of Donald Trump – one of the few in the Valley. He could be seen as speaking on Thursday night for the same reason as the man who follows him, Tom Barrack, CEO of Colony Capital, simply for payback for funding Trump’s campaign. Or there may be something else going on, as some are speculating.
Thiel seems like an odd choice to be speaking at the convention. Thiel is gay and a libertarian – and as the party’s platform is most definitely anti-LGBT, and as libertarians such as Rand Paul are nowhere to be seen this convention, is feels out of place for Thiel to appear in such a high profile speaking slot.
“I think Peter Thiel supports Donald Trump because he believes it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to weaken America’s attachment to democratic government,” Jeff Bercovici said, writing for Incs magazine.
Bercovici admits his theory is a bit out-there, but he continues.
“Not being Thiel myself, I don’t know how he sees this playing out. But it’s easy to imagine a Trump presidency leading to a constitutional crisis or mass protests that would leave the executive branch, and perhaps even the entire federal government, significantly weakened.”
Thiel may be no fan of government, but that is not all he is not a fan of. Thiel wrote for Cato Unbound that is is unfortunate that women were given the vote, a position he later modified a bit by saying that is unlikely they will lose the vote – not exactly a reversal of position.
“Since 1920, the vast increase in welfare beneficiaries and the extension of the franchise to women — two constituencies that are notoriously tough for libertarians — have rendered the notion of “capitalist democracy” into an oxymoron,” Thiel wrote.
BloombergBusinessweek’s Max Chafkin and Lizette Chapman also wonders what is up with Thiel.
“The timing, according to an investor who knows him, was classic Thiel: “He’s always thinking, ‘How can I use this to move my agenda forward?’ ” Another acquaintance, a founder of a startup in which Thiel is an investor, says with a mix of fear and admiration, “He’s diabolical.”
Thiel will be, undoubtedly, one of the most intelligent speakers at the convention. After the series of fire breathing crazies, demanding the imprisonment or even death of Hillary Clinton, Thiel is the one speaker that you can be sure has spent time considering what he will say.
The Trump campaign has not always seemed to have control over the message being delivered from the stage, so it is possible that they won’t really know what is coming tonight, either. It could be bland and uneventful, but would you bet on it?
To learn more about Thiel, the man who bankrolled the lawsuit against Gawker and Nick Denton, see this interview with the author of a microbiography of Thiel.